Mountaineers prepare for district final
IRON MOUNTAIN — Fresh off of their first round MHSAA playoff defeat of Mancelona, the 10-0 Iron Mountain Mountaineers and head coach Robin Marttila await their second round opponent, the 7-3 Charlevoix Red Rayders.
Charlevoix is a member of the same downstate conference and division as Mancelona, the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders Division.
Charlevoix and head coach Don Jess defeated conference foe Harbor Springs 32-0 last week for their first playoff win in school history. Harbor Springs, also a member of the NMFL-Leaders Division, hosted the Red Rayders Week 9 of the regular season.
Charlevoix won that tilt 47-27 to secure an automatic berth in the playoffs with their sixth win of the season, and also earning the right to host H-S in Week 1 of the playoffs.
Outscoring opponents 255-199 thus far on the season, Charlevoix’s three losses on the season were to playoff qualifiers Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-0), Maple City Glenn Lake (8-1), and at St. Ignace (5-4) .
Charlevoix defeated Mancelona, 22-20, on Oct. 11 at Charlevoix.
This season is the ninth time in school history the Red Rayders have qualified for the state football playoffs. They have played other U.P schools over the years, including Sault Ste. Marie, Manistique, Munising and Gwinn. In playoff games, they’ve faced Calumet in 2009 and Negaunee in 2014 and 2016.
Iron Mountain and Charlevoix faced one another once before, also a postseason matchup and also at Mountaineer Stadium. On Halloween 2008, IM defeated Charlevoix, 48-15; the 11-0 Mountaineers lost in round 3 to Montague 33-13 at Gaylord that season. Coincidentally, Montague was the first-ever playoff opponent for Charlevoix in 1992.
The Mountaineers’ defense has been very strong through 10 games, only allowing 88 points while posting three consecutive shutouts weeks three through five against Houghton, Norway, and playoff qualifier Bark River-Harris.
Standouts on such a stout defense aren’t easy to pinpoint when there isn’t much weakness across the board. Caleb Evosevich-Hynes, Jacob Dumais and Caleb Burklund were named as All-U.P. performers.
Offensively, IM has scored 369 points on the season, totaling 39 points or more in all but two games. Quarterback Marcus Johnson, who was named Small School Offensive Player of the Year by the U.P. Sports Writers and Sportscasters, led the Mountaineer offense for eight of 10 games, having missed the first two games due to an offseason injury. Colin Visintainer filled the quarterback spot quite well, leading IM to home wins over Negaunee and Westwood to begin the season.
Center Gio Colavecci, who was unanimously named as U.P. Dream Team center, has anchored the IM line for three straight seasons. The IM offensive line is a strength in their running game, as well as giving Johnson and Visintainer ample time in the passing attack.
“Charlevoix is a solid football team, who blew out their first round opponent last week,” Marttila said. “In the backfield, they have a three-headed monster, with a running quarterback, a strong downhill-running fullback, and tailback with great speed. They will spread out a defense with four wide receivers on every play, and that will be a challenge for our defense.” Defensively, Charlevoix runs a base 5-3 defense. “On film their middle linebacker looks like a beast that we’ll need to block on every play.” Marttila said.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to come up and play Iron Mountain,” said Charlevoix’s Jess. “They look like a great team on the films we’ve seen and we’re not surprised they’re 10-0. We’re down a few starters, but we’re hoping for a good game on Saturday.”
Jess points to his four senior captains as his team leaders, Luke Stuck at OT/DE, Cole Wright at QB/OLB, RB/FS Alan Ritter and WR/OLB Jake Snyder, as the strength of the team.
Kickoff Saturday from Mountaineer Stadium is at noon, with snow flurries or showers possible and a high temperature near 40.